My grandmother threw family Christmas Eve celebrations like they were a 1980s Bruce Springsteen concert.
She was a German-Irish farm girl who grew up in Iowa during the Great Depression. She learned in the “Dust Bowl” what it was like to go without.
Those experiences gave her a resolve to make sure Christmas Eve was a blow out event for her daughters and ultimately grandsons. If she were still alive today, she could vlog best practices on making Christmas special for children.
How did she excel at making Christmas magical for others? First, she understood everyone in the family. She would pick up gifts over the course of the year, wrap them, and hide them in her walk-in closet. Secondly, that woman was an amazing cook. She understood from her childhood on a farm the importance of a good meal for those who spent their days doing hard labor. Every meal was made with love.
The Christmas Eve dinner was oyster stew before church, because seafood was a luxury item for those in Iowa. The tradition moved west with my grandparents to California (for the record, cold cuts were also made on Christmas Eve, because oyster stew definitely skipped the third generation). After what seemed like a church service that lasted an eternity to any child, we would return home to shred wrapping paper like it was an Olympic sport. Christmas Day was a full feast of prime rib and adventure with the entire family.
My grandmother’s forever glowing spirit is what made Christmas special, not the gifts she gave. She brought people together. She took the time to plan, prepare, and skillfully execute a holiday plan that left generations with a lifetime of happy memories.
I wish everyone had such positive Christmas memories, but life has more than its share of challenges for many. Hardship can severely diminish hope. My grandmother lived through the Great Depression and World War 2, an extended period of fear that gave her extreme determination to help others during her life. As I think about this Christmas, and those in need, I am reminded to always be kind to others.